The Caribbean is a veritable cruising paradise. Terysa Vanderloo shares her tips from two seasons exploring the islands
Best places for…
Get a bus or cab from the Fort de France anchorage to the out-of-town hypermarkets in Martinique. Jolly Harbour, Antigua, also has easy access to the best supermarket on the island.
St Maarten had everything we needed for repairs or maintenance but Grenada is also a good option if you’re further south in the Windward Islands.
The hurricane season
Traditional options are to join the liveaboard fun in Grenada, head north to South Carolina, or haul out in Antigua. Jolly Harbour was one of the few boatyards in the entire hurricane zone approved by our insurance provider Pantaenius.
Dominica, although the tours are expensive – consider hiring a car and exploring yourself.
Pick up a mooring ball in the picturesque Marigot Bay, St Lucia. They belong to the resort and access to their luxurious infinity pool and lounges are included in the price.
Fishing by trolling, or hand lining in an anchorage (unless a marine park) is generally accepted and tolerated by the local authorities as long as it is on a small scale and you don’t have a sports fishing boat, for which you need a licence. Trolling is an excellent way to fish and with a bit of luck, the dollars you spend in the local fishing-tackle store will, in economic terms, balance the fish you take out of the sea.
Remember spearfishing is illegal and unacceptable in most islands. If a spear misses a fish and hits coral, it can start an infection that could eventually destroy a large area.
Diving and snorkelling
Snorkel in almost any Caribbean anchorage, and you will see something interesting. You are free to do this anywhere in the eastern Caribbean, except in Statia, where snorkelling without a guide is banned in the marine park, and Buccoo Reef in Tobago, where you may not approach the reef by boat.
Exceptional sites include Anse du Colombier in St Barth where you can swim with the turtles; the Cousteau Marine Park in Pigeon Island, Guadeloupe; and Soufriere Marine Park (SMMA), St. Lucia. Perhaps the very best of all is the Tobago Cays, while St. Vincent and the Grenadines, also has superb diving. Grenada’s best dive sites are around the Sisters Rocks off Isle de Ronde.
There have been big improvements in formalities for clearing in and out of Caribbean islands. The eSeaClear and SailClear advance notifications websites make it possible to enter all customs and immigration clearance details online.
eSeaClear applies to Antigua, while SailClear operates for Anguilla, Antigua, Bermuda, BVI, Cayman Island, Curacao, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Montserrat, Saint Lucia, St Kitts and Nevis, Turks and Caicos, St Vincent and Grenada.
Fill in details of boat and crew before you arrive and update them as you sail between islands. This makes the information available to the different national border agencies.
Both clearance systems are free of charge and optional. Skippers are legally still required to report to Customs and Immigration when they arrive and present identification documents, but the time spent there should be reduced considerably.
Martinique and Guadeloupe were also particularly easy to clear into. Both had a do-it-yourself set-up at a local cafe, where you simply used their computer to fill out a form, printed it off, and you were cleared in!
Antigua strictly enforced their Customs and Immigration rules and it could take several hours to clear in and out. Falmouth Harbour in Antigua seemed to be a smoother option than Jolly Harbour, Antigua.
In the loop
The radio net is an organised broadcast amongst cruisers in an area. Often scheduled for each morning and always run by a ‘net controller’, radio nets share information, allow cruisers to connect with each other, and find out about what’s happening in the local area. It includes segments such as weather, local events, local services, buy/sell/swap, and safety and security.
The Caribbean has never been utopia and crime is not new. Dinghies with outboards are most commonly stolen, although there are also some break-ins while boat owners sleep on board. There is also a small, but possibly increasing, amount of violent crime and armed robberies. How much is a small amount? Check for yourself on up-to-date reports that are filed on safetyandsecuritynet.org and also some on Noonsite.
Bear in mind that considering the numbers of people who sail in the Caribbean, the figures are still not high. Many people on yachts will still go to bed with their hatches open, although charter companies instruct against it. Some security-conscious cruisers have wire-framed hatches fitted that let air in but keep people out.
Caribbean pilot book author Chris Doyle, who cruises in the islands each year in his catamaran Ti Canot, says: “For years I have had a cheap alarm that chimes when someone enters the boat. Happily, it has not yet gone off.”
Useful reference guides
Chris Doyle Guides: Up-to-date information on ports of entry, clearance procedures and much more.
Caribbean Yachting Charts: Linked to Doyle’s Guides, digital versions available
Caribbean Safety & Security Net: Log of crimes against yachts.
Free directories of yacht services are available on many of the islands. These are informative and worth seeking out.
About the author
Terysa Vanderloo and her partner, Nick, are sailing around the world on their Southerly 38 Ruby Rose. You can follow their blog and regular video updates at: yachtrubyrose.com
First published in the November 2017 edition of Yachting World.